Temporary protected status (TPS) protections will not be renewed for Honduran nationals living in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday. The director of the US bishops' migration services program has said ending TPS protections for Hondurans would be inhumane.

TPS is a program meant to temporarily shield immigrants from scheduled deportation due to adverse situations in their countries of origin; TPS status is generally conferred following a natural disaster, epidemic, or some sort of societal unrest. It permits affected parties to legally work in the United States.  

Hondurans are among several immigrant groups for whom TPS status will come to an end within the coming years, alongside immigrants from El Salvador, Nepal, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

TPS was conferred on Honduran nationals after a hurricane destroyed large parts of the country in 1998, causing over $2 billion in damages. Since then, about 86,000 Hondurans have registered for TPS. If the protections expire, they will have to leave the United States and return to Honduras.

A letter from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that TPS would be revoked as "conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved." Furthermore, Nielsen said that the country has made "substantial process" since October 2016 in its post-hurricane recovery.

Due to these improvements, Nielsen announced that TPS for Hondurans would expire in 18 months, on January 5, 2020, giving Hondurans time to prepare to leave the United States. Nielsen said that resources would be made available to assist with this transition.

A letter to Nielsen from William A. Canny, executive director of the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services, paints a far different picture of the current situation in Honduras. Canny warned that it would be "inhumane and untenable" to terminate TPS now.

Contrary to the Department of Homeland Security's findings, the USCCB does not believe that Honduras has recovered to the point where it could successfully re-integrate Honduran citizens who have spent the last 20 years in the United States.

"From our delegation trip to the region in Fall 2017, as well as our continued presence and work in the region and with affected communities in the U.S., we know firsthand that Honduras is not currently able to adequately handle the return of their nationals who have TPS," said Canny.

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"The delegation found an extension of TPS for both countries crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons," he explained.

Last year the USCCB visited the country, where they found that families are still subject to the threat of violence. Additionally, there is a large population of internally displaced persons within the country--a problem that Canny said would be compounded by the return of people with TPS protections.

"Given the current country conditions, Honduras is in no position to accommodate the return of an estimated 57,000 nationals who have received TPS from the United States. Doing so would likely destabilize this key strategic, regional partner and potentially bring harm to those returned," he wrote.

"We ask you to show compassion and patience as Honduras continues to improve its citizen security and humanitarian capacity for reception, protection, and integration."